It’s that time of year in journalism - The Best Doctors in America, The Best Physicians on the East Coast, The Best Ear Nose and Throat Guys on this side of town. Even if that is true, that these dudes are really the best doctors, most people aren’t going to actually access them. Perhaps because of financial constraints, insurance, distance, or just the resources that it takes to chase the god, YOU are going to go to another practitioner. So, who wants to go to the Second Best Doctor in America? And, what about the Third?
I might! What are the services that you are requesting? How can someone really choose The Best General Practitioner in America? Even, The Best Plastic Surgeon in America? Based on what criteria, by whom, with what incentives, during what time frame, what body part? Or, The Best Oncologist in America? That could be a daring doctor who is willing to offer VERY ill patients a chance at experimental therapies with yet-to-be-determined outcomes. The stats on that doc might not look so good. But, a given patient might seek that kind of intervention. Furthermore (and we MDs don’t like this one at all) the patient might even pursue some type of alternative care. Can you imagine?
I want a doctor who might sincerely wish to continue to learn about a variety of therapies in addition to teaching other specialists. Now, I’m not sayin’ that The Chosen Ones aren’t that way. I’m saying that it doesn’t matter if a survey of medical professionals or administrators claims to identify a good doctor. A survey of patients does, for sure, as long as you access the right information.
My choice – as a partner in a medical malpractice insurance company – was the doctor’s staff, from the receptionist, to the nurses, to the office cleaners. Would they go to that doctor?
I take great pride in helping my friends, staff and acquaintances. I know how to keep a(n electronic medical) record, even for my mother-in-law if she insists on antibiotics for a cold (however, that is another blog altogether). I’m not afraid of a malpractice claim, ’cause I know how it works. I learned this by helping to found two great medical companies, Pediatrix Medical Group and Applied Medical Legal Solutions. If you take great care of the patient, document accurately and often, follow up with the patient and any labs that are due, and really care, you’ll do OK in front of jury. The malpractice bottom feeders that pursue less-than-optimal outcomes know this, also. Even sharks stay away from an unsatisfying prey.
I said “might” want the Number 2 Doctor in America because, of course, I might not. Maybe it would be more useful to publish a Worst Doctors in America List? No practitioner would want to make that one, for sure. Actually, there probably is such a list. Check the malpractice history. Not for the number of cases – that might only represent the doctor’s willingness to take more complicated cases – but for the quality of the case. Did he/she fail to come to see the patient, or yell at the nurses to leave him alone, or not check the results of a test that he ordered? Maybe the doc learned from it, maybe not. As a result, many like-cases should present a red flag. Listening and empathy are good, results are better.
So, it’s OK if we don’t go to The Best Doctor in America. There was a time when a patient might travel to South Africa to have Dr. Christiaan Bernard perform a heart transplant. Well over 2000 heart transplants took place in the US last year. In prehistoric times, when I sat for the Board Examination for Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine, NICUs only existed in university settings. Now, every corner hospital that delivers babies has some form of that technology. Thank God. It’s the service, the technology, the knowledge, the care that determine an optimal outcome.
For autism, find a biomedical specialist who understands the complexity of childhood developmental disorders and delivers sustained results. Sure, a parent will explore information from professionals, other parents of ASD children, books and websites. But, the age, sex, severity of cases, associated syndromes and medical problems make most advice an iffy resource – for your particular child, unless you know the specifics. That is why autism360.org is such a wonderful resource (thank you, Dr. Sid Baker).
This year, the Autism Research Institute has announced that it can no longer keep up their DAN doctor listing (I’m not certain why). But, in a sincere effort to further my craft and utilize the most current technology, theautismdoctor.com is creating a new service for readers and practitioners. It ain’t the Best Autism Doctors in America. It’s The Accessible and Helpful Autism Doctors in the World List. Stay tuned.
Addendum: The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs, which is being assembled under the American Academy of Pediatrics “has been developing an ASD Fellowship for physicians and other medical professionals.” Such credentials should help assure a high standard of medical care and will be a valuable resource for parents and other practitioners.